Improving Access for Youth Starts with Regulation

YouthStart was invited to contribute to a large event organised by BCEAO (Banque Centrale des Etats de l’Afrique de l’Ouest), in partnership with UNCDF, this past April. The objective of the workshop was to reflect on the strategy for financial inclusion in the countries of UEMOA (Union Economique et Monétaire Ouest Africaine). The event gathered some 60 experts from BCEAO, UNCDF and key technical partners, which will all play a role in the future strategy.

YouthStart led one of the sessions, which focused on policy and access to financial services for youth. The session was set up as a discussion with Kevin Kavugizo, director of the Microfinance Supervision department at the National Bank of Rwanda and Maria Perdomo, UNCDF-YouthStart programme manager. The objective of the discussion was to present the four principles of the regulatory framework that facilitates access to financial services by young people in Rwanda.

In brief, the framework enables, on the one hand, youth at the age of 16 to open and independently manage a savings account and, on the other, FSPs to use new technologies to reduce the cost of serving this new client segment. The regulation also facilitates access to micro-leasing and agricultural finance, creating new opportunities for young entrepreneurs. As Mr. Kavugizo noted, “The fact that, in Rwanda, a young person at the age of 16 can become a member of [a] SACCO [savings and credit co-operative] and other cooperatives has not only favoured access to finance for youth, but also has increased youth opportunities to participate in agriculture. Let us remember that two thirds of youth in sub-Saharan Africa live in rural areas. ”Lastly, the framework offers protection and training to youth based on principles, such as the ones developed by The Smart Campaign and Child and Youth Finance International.

In light of the Rwanda example, participants debated the BCEAO regulatory framework and the changes needed to improve access to financial services for youth in the West African region.Summing up the talks in the room, Amadou Sall Dial from the Ministry of Entrepreneurship and Women in Senegal stated, “Access to finance for youth is and must remain a priority in the region.”

To learn more about policy and access for youth, please read the YouthStart publication shared with session participants entitled ‘Client Protection for Youth Clients.’